Meet Mark Cullen

Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is Home Hardware's horticultural spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

Grasses, Cosmos and the BEST time of year in the Garden!

Breathtaking. This morning in the garden was just unbelievable.

As I poured fresh rain water (we had lots over the weekend) into a bucket for my morning ritual... watering our 25 chickens, picking up the Toronto Star at the end of the lane... I was dumbfounded by the appearance of light fog over the property. The sun was not quite up over the trees on the east side of our property, the sunflowers not quite conscious of a dawning day.
No wind.
I saw one of our hummingbirds, yes the one of the many that my wife Mary is fed up of me pointing out: I saw one of them hovering over a hosta, ready to pounce on some nectar.

A snapshot of a gardening season in progress... on the high side of middle age, I would say (the garden, not me!). I feel that way because the ornamental grasses are tasseling (or, flowering). This is a sign that summer is nearing its end and autumn is pulling up from behind with its own surprises.

I don’t know why we don’t see more ornamental grasses in Canadian gardens. Just when you return from your summer vacation or cottage, the kids go back to school, the evening air turns cool and morning dew gets so heavy that you really need rubber boots to go for an early walk: this is the time of year that gardeners should reward themselves with some real action in the garden. Ornamental grasses deliver.

My two berms feature 150 Maiden Grass, Miscanthus Sinensis ‘Rotsilber’. I planted them 5 years ago this fall from one gallon pots. They have grown 20 fold, as near as I can determine. And they are so thick that I hardly have to weed them any more.

There are so many gorgeous ornamental grasses to choose from.

The ones that come back each year are available in generous numbers. Look for Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium for a unique look that matures at about one meter high. Or Feather Reed Grass, Calamagrostis acutififlora ‘Karl Forester’ which was the 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year. I have a bunch of these down by the pond. They grow to 1 ½ meters high and behave themselves.

These are just a few of my favourites… there are many more. Take a look at your local retailer and keep two things in mind - you are looking for a variety that is winter hardy in your area AND (this is most important!) ones that Do NOT travel…. Some of these rascals are very aggressive.
Like Ribbon Grass, Phalaris arundinacea. My sister Sue fell in love with this colourful, easy to care for grass and gave it away to unsuspecting friends and neighbours. She was an ornamental-grass-goodwill-machine for about 4 years. Then it dawned on her and others that she had been giving away a weed.
In time she did the only respectable thing, and moved out of town.

Don’t make the Sue mistake.

Keep in mind that all ornamental grasses need sun. The more the better. (Just one reason why they love the prairies!)

People that planted cosmos earlier in the season are getting their just rewards. Wow! And you can do this from seed….!

Echinacea is attracting countless finches as they chow down on the maturing seedheads. Watching them hang up-side-down is kind of fun. They almost seem drunk…..

To the lawn for a moment: the grass seed that Rudy and I sowed over 3 weeks ago is germinating and growing very well. How is yours? Don’t forget that this is a great time to lay sod too.

And it is a great time to build a composter. Why not, you are handy enough – come on! Besides, before you know it the leaves will be falling and you will need a place to put them. And don’t even think of putting them out to the curb side. That is paramount to pouring money down the storm sewer…. Your leaves are God’s gift to the gardener. Compost them or put them on the surface of the garden soil.

More on that later, as we get closer to the composting season.

Meantime, lots to do and even lots not to do – like doing nothing but enjoying the sights and sounds of your garden. The clock is ticking. We will be indoors enduring bad Leafs hockey soon enough.

Keep your knees dirty!